Potboilers & potholes: all in day’s work in Maximum City
Aug 22 2013
When US vice-president Joe Biden came visiting here, what abiding memory of the city did his wife take back with her? “The roads,” Ms Biden said diplomatically, “They are quite unique, aren’t they?” So they are, and the Mumbai police force is very proud of them too. The other day a gang of robbers looted lakhs and lakhs worth of jewellery from a store, got into their SUV and made a dash for freedom and fortune. They had planned everything in advance: the initial recce, the disguise for CCTV cameras, the gateway car, the shortest route out… But they overlooked one thing: the shortest distance between two points is as the crow flies, but a crow flies and doesn’t drive in Mumbai. Their SUV went into a deep, deep pothole, and stayed there. All the robbers are in jail now. The moral: the best laid plans of mice and men have gaping holes in them.
This is why — and I have been told this most seriously by a very senior source in the government — the intelligence agencies and the police have raised serious objections to the new, super long flyover, which cuts travel time between Chembur and VT to a mere 16 minutes. “We want the travel time to be 2 hours as before,” they said, “otherwise all terrorists will be able to make such a quick gateway!”
As you can see, Mumbai’s pot holes don’t necessarily make everyone unhappy. Corporators, for example, are a happy lot. The Bombay Municipal Corporation gave them expensive smartphones so that they could take photographs of potholes in their area, and upload them on BMC’s potholes tracking website. Corporaters being first and foremost politicians, all 230 of them grabbed their free phones, but only six actually took photographs of potholes. A Shiv Sena corporator is the topper amongst them, having captured as many as 28 potholes. (If you are interested in numbers, the amount spent on the phones was Rs 25 lakh. And the total number of potholes recorded on the tracking system since June 2013 is 25,603).
The six corporators who have uploaded pictures have each responded in their own way. The topper (Ganesh Sanap, which is probably pronounced Ganesh Snap) is distressed that though the BMC quickly filled the potholes he sanapped, they left neighbouring potholes alone. A Congress corporator, Sneha Zagade, found her motherly instincts aroused by the potholes (actually one pothole because she photographed only one). “The pothole,” she said, “is being very well looked after.”
As you can see, potholes bring comfort into many lives. In the lives of garage owners, for example, with car springs and suspensions and shock absorbers needing replacement well before their time. Puncturewallas are happy, as are tyre manufacturers. Orthopaedists are overjoyed, as are acupuncturists, Reiki healers and orthopaedic surgeons.
Given this general feeling of contentment all round, the government is unlikely to act any time soon to fill potholes. In fact, I understand from one very senior government source, that at a recent Maharashtra government cabinet meeting, one veteran spoke very irately to the chief minister. “With due respect to you sir,” this minister said, “Given the huge scope our beloved city has to offer, can you explain why there are only 25,603 potholes in Mumbai?”